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  • The Warsaw Pact Reconsidered: International Relations in Eastern Europe, 1955–69 by Laurien Crump
  • Sheldon Anderson
Laurien Crump, The Warsaw Pact Reconsidered: International Relations in Eastern Europe, 1955–69. London: Routledge, 2015. 322 pp.

The opening of the archives of the former Warsaw Pact countries has provided scholars with new insights into relations among Communist states. Laurien Crump has tapped into Romanian, German, and Italian archives, as well as recently published primary sources, to reconsider the Soviet Union's control over its Communist partners from the formation of the Warsaw Pact to the year after the suppression of the Prague Spring.

Surprisingly, the documents cited in the book do not signficantly change the history of the Cold War. Crump has basically confirmed what many long knew—that the Communist world was repeatedly fraught with serious divisions. This was a long-standing phenomenon. In the nineteenth century, Marxists were split between revolutionary Communists and evolutionary social democrats. The Bolsheviks and Mensheviks squabbled in the early twentieth century, and the fatal division between the German Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party in the early 1930s divided the German eft and enabled the Nazi Party takeover.

Crump's archival research is thorough, and her work is an important contribution to understanding the Romanian deviation from the Soviet Union in the wake of the split with Communist China. In addition, she provides insightful details about [End Page 262] the internal Warsaw Pact debates on the Berlin crises, nuclear nonproliferation, the Vietnam War, and military structure. Here she is on solid ground.

Crump runs into trouble in situating her work in the history of the Cold War. She draws dubious conclusions about the dissension within the Communist world that she so carefully documents. She would have been better served to use her research to confirm rather than refute previous Cold War histories.

Crump calls out some of the preeminent historians of the Cold War in arguing that the Warsaw Pact gradually became similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): "Contrasting this so-called 'empire by invitation' with the 'much more rigidly controlled empire' of the Soviet Union, [Geir] Lundestad's theory fails to research the dynamics of the Warsaw Pact in an equally open-minded manner" (pp. 6–7). She also notes that John Lewis Gaddis and other well-known scholars of the Cold War "still assume that Eastern Europe was an 'empire by coercion' or even a 'failed empire', and that as such it apparently does not merit any further study" (p. 5).

Soviet-backed Communist dictatorships were forced on the people of Eastern Europe, and the Soviet empire did fail. Nor would any of the historians she mentions suggest that no further study of the machinations of the Warsaw Pact is warranted. One of the most important findings of these new studies of the Soviet bloc is that the United States and its allies repeatedly exaggerated the strength of the Warsaw Pact as a unified fighting force. The value of Crump's work is that it underscores the disunity within the alliance.

Her use of the word "emancipation" to describe the evolution of the Warsaw Pact from a "cardboard castle" to a true multilateral alliance is curious. Webster's Third defines emancipation as "the act or process of setting or making free: liberation." We know that the Soviet Union allowed some deviation from the Stalinist model; for example, in Poland's tolerance of the Catholic Church and private fa2rming, or in Hungary's New Economic Mechanism. Crump ignores the obvious: Soviet military dominance of Eastern Europe and the dependence of the East European Communist parties on Soviet power severely limited their room to maneuver. Prescribed ideological discussions were one thing for the Soviet Union, but the overthrow of a pro-Soviet Communist party and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact was another. The East German case in 1953, the Hungarian case in 1956, and the Soviet-bloc invasion (with the exception of Romania) of Czechoslovakia in 1968 were proof of that. Soviet leaders were greatly relieved that the Polish army took care of the Solidarity movement in 1981 and thus avoided another Soviet-led military operation.

Crump also overlooks what...


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pp. 262-264
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